The 3rd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue “Sharing Culture for Shared Security" kicked off at the prestigious Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan.
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan His Excellency Ilham Aliyev and his wife Ms Mehriban Aliyeva attended the opening ceremony. The head of state made a speech at the event. "Today we have representatives here from over 100 countries. It is really very important that these people have come to Azerbaijan to share their opinion because there are a lot of conflicts in the world. Blood is being shed in these conflicts, battles are taking place in Europe and also in our region. In this case Azerbaijan is like a stable island in the region," stressed the president.
The theme this year was "Culture and sustainable development in the post 2015 development agenda," with a view to marking the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development on May 21. Topping the agenda of the forum was the security problems facing the world and also the violence sparked by extremism.
"It gives me a great pleasure to be back again to this beautiful city of Baku, for the second time to address this esteemed gathering, I am also very pleased to convey to you the warm greetings of the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. He had met last January in New York with Mr. Abulfas Garayev, the Minister of Culture and Tourism in my presence and he expressed the importance he attaches to this forum. The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations is proud of its partnership with the Government of Azerbaijan and all the other co-organizers of the 3rd edition of the World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue" noted High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Mr Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser in his speech.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, addressed the large audience of eminent personalities, government representatives, leaders of international and regional organizations, religious and civil society institutions, artists and wide range of scholars and experts from the world.
"Our vision of the world - the vision of the Baku Process - has never been more important", "We recognise the deepening interdependence of the world - our responsibility is to make this a source of strength. This is why UNESCO is working to include culture in the post-2015 development agenda", "We say it again today, on the occasion of this World Forum - cultural diversity is another way to say human dignity and human rights," declared the Director-General.
The Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Mr Abdualziz Othmane Altwaijri, delivered an address in which he said that the Forum's civilizational mission was more than ever relevant, with many regions around the globe plagued with tensions, wars, and turmoil, as a result of rising trends of terrorism, hate, racism, and sectarian strife, often exacerbated by the interference of foreign players seeking to fuel the destructive chaos which they claim to be serving their strategic interests.
Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Iyad Ameen Madani, also addressed the ceremony. In his speech he underscored the OIC's commitment to intercultural dialogue as a means to achieving peaceful coexistence and mutual respect of differences.
Advisor to the UNWTO Secretary-General on Tourism and Peace, Regional Director for the Middle East Mr Amr Abdel-Ghaffar read out a congratulatory message of UNWTO Secretary-General Mr Taleb Rifai.
"We have to get away from theory. I think it will be a long and hard journey. Because for the moment the world is not very safe and it is much more violent than it was 10 years ago," opined French Senator, Nathalie Goulet.
The opening ceremony was followed by the launch of "Agree to Differ" book, a landmark publication on the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, co-published by UNESCO and Tudor Rose where UNESCO Director-General made a speech. Ms Irina Bokova handed a document certifying the inclusion of Azerbaijani Kelaghayi in UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity to first lady, UNESCO goodwill ambassador Ms Mehriban Aliyeva. International partner organizations were awarded the symbol of the forum.
After the opening, the Director-General launched the book "Agree to Differ", a landmark publication by UNESCO and Tudor Rose on the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, for which UNESCO is lead agency.
"Agreeing to differ - or agreeing to disagree - does not imply a passive form of tolerance for the views of others - it means an active engagement with others, on the basis of respect, equal dignity and compassion", said Ms Bokova when presenting the book in the presence of Ms Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the President.
The Forum continued to its sessions at JW Marriott Absheron Baku.